Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.
Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.
Occupation: Personal Assistant (to a celebrity)
Overview: A personal assistant is required to perform a variety of duties at the whim of their employer, many of which will be industry-specific to the type of work their employer is involved in. For this entry, we will look at an assistant to a celebrity, but personal assistants may also work for politicians, diplomats, CEOs, best-selling authors, entertainment industry executives, fashion designers, royalty, professional sport personalities, leaders and important members of any industry, or any person (and often their family members) who has a great deal of wealth, power, or influence (or all three).
An assistant for a celebrity will be required to be “on call” and to perform many types of tasks (scheduling appearances, organizing events, attending to social media, collecting work-related materials, planning travel, couriering more sensitive personal documents or important items, melding the celebrity’s personal and professional calendar, and coordinating with other key personnel such as the nanny, personal trainers, hair stylists, make up artists, fashion consultants, the celebrity’s agent, etc.). Some tasks are mere errands, running from the mundane (walking the dog, shuttling the celebrity’s children, picking up their dry cleaning) to the unusual or outrageous (securing a phone number of someone the celebrity is interested in, obtaining a candy or coffee from another country, convincing a restaurant owner to open after they’ve closed for a private dinner, being a personal shopper, buying and delivering gifts (to grease the wheels and keep the celebrity’s brand strong), and even purchasing high-end items at the bequest of the celebrity (jewelry, art, vehicles, etc.).
Assistants must be fierce advocates of their employer, ensuring their every need is met whether they are at home, traveling, or getting ready to perform or be interviewed. Celebrities don’t make requests–they make demands, and each, regardless of how easy or hard it is, must be done immediately. Having a personal life is difficult as the assistant’s time is rarely their own; they run on the same professional schedule as their celebrity, attending the same events and traveling when they travel. They will carry several different phones (a primary and a back up) and be expected to respond immediately regardless of the time of day or night, and attend to every request.
Assistants can often become confidants and secret keepers, so they witness not only the high moments, but the low ones. Some may have to cover up or minimize the fallout of their celebrity’s actions, be asked to procure things that are illegal, cross personal moral lines or do things that make them uncomfortable, and perhaps even pay people off to fix problems that crop up. For this reason, assistants usually are forced to sign non-disclosure agreements that forbid them from discussing their relationship with the celebrity. The strain of being constantly available and the high expectations of this job often lead to anxiety and burnout. There’s a lot of turnover despite the perks of travel, clothing allowances, access to influential people and exclusive events, along with financial compensation.
Necessary Training: While no official degree is required to become a personal assistant, connections in the industry can help one procure a job. A character seeking this type of job should have a strong command of social media, know their celebrity’s industry inside and out, have their finger on the pulse of trends and gossip within the celebrity’s realm, and be very comfortable with organizing and multi-tasking. They must also be a creative problem-solver, as some of the things they will be asked to do will require ingenuity to complete, and not coming through on a demand will lead to a very short career. Having a strong network of people who are facilitators (“I know a guy”) is key, and so the assistant must have strong connections in this area, or be willing to build a network of people quickly.
Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: A knack for languages, blending in, charm, empathy, enhanced hearing, esp (clairvoyance), exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others, good listening skills, haggling, hospitality, lip-reading, lying, making people laugh, mentalism, multitasking, photographic memory, predicting the weather, promotion, reading people, sewing, strategic thinking, swift-footedness, writing
Helpful Character Traits: Adaptable, adventurous,alert, ambitious, bold, calm, charming, confident, cooperative, courteous, creative, decisive, diplomatic, disciplined, discreet, efficient, extroverted, friendly, hospitable, imaginative, intelligent, loyal, mature, meticulous, obedient, observant, organized, patient, persuasive, proactive, professional, protective, resourceful, responsible, sophisticated, tolerant
Sources of Friction: Dealing with an impossible request, being asked to do something illegal or immoral to fulfill a request, being unfairly treated because the celebrity is upset and the assistant is “safe” to lash out at, a celebrity that crossing the line to make inappropriate advances, being blamed for something the celebrity did to save them face, being approached by another celebrity to work for them, an injury or illness that interferes with one’s ability to perform duties, discovering something disturbing about the celebrity’s friends and being asked to participate in a cover up, being forced to trade one’s personal life for the celebrity’s narcissistic needs (having to cancel an attendance of a son’s piano recital because one’s celebrity demands one remain in one’s hotel suite in case the celebrity wants food delivered when she gets back from a spa treatment).
People They Might Interact With: the celebrity’s family, agent, and friends, various other handlers or advisors (a personal trainer, nutritionist, therapist, doctors, nannies, coaches, tutors, drivers, managers, etc.), travel specialists, hotel management and staff, venue staff, green room managers, industry executives, other celebrities and their assistants, business owners and managers, a network of “professional gophers” in different countries who can procure anything one needs there, fans, club owners, fashion designers, photographers, paparazzi, artists, people of importance who run in the same circles
How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:
- Self-Actualization: A character who is so caught up in this profession may never be able to take the time to pursue their own passions and dreams.
- Love and Belonging: In this career, one’s personal life will always be sacrificed for the needs of one’s employer. Family who don’t understand the commitment needed for this career (or resent it), or a lack of personal relationships due to having no time of energy for them can cause the character to long for caring, loving relationships that include acceptance where one can be imperfect, yet still cherished and valued.
- Safety and Security: Being closely tied to a celebrity could be dangerous as many have fans who are rabidly devoted. These fans, and those who are certified stalkers, may go to any length to obtain access or information on the celebrity, including inflict harm.
Common Work-Related Settings: airplane, airport, art gallery, ballroom, bank, bar, big city street, black-tie event, boardroom, casino, casual dining restaurant, coffeehouse, cruise ship, elevator, fitness center, flower shop, green room, hair salon, hotel room, jewelry store, kitchen, laundromat, limousine, liquor store, living room, man cave, mansion, marina, movie theater, museum, nightclub, nursery, outdoor pool, parking garage, parking lot, patio deck, penthouse suite, performing arts theater, race track (horses), ranch, recording studio, rock concert, shopping mall, ski resort, spa, sporting event stands, subway train, taxi, therapist’s office, trendy mall clothing store, tropical island, upscale hotel lobby, Vegas stage show, waiting room, wedding reception, winery, yacht
Twisting the Stereotype:
- personal assistants are often relatives or friends of the celebrity. Why not bring someone from the celebrity’s past who was a rival, but happens to be the best assistant in the business?
- personal assistants are expected to get what their celebrity wants, no matter what it is and what they need to do to get it. Rather than showing your assistant as someone who will bully to get what they need, why not have someone who has another type of leverage (they are famous themselves, perhaps connected to royalty, or they know so many secrets about people in the industry no one will cross them in fear of backlash, or they simply have a way with people and are able to persuade people no matter how resistant they may be when first asked for a favor.
- what about a personal assistant that was a celebrity who fell from grace, who is now seeking a way to get back into the business, or access to the business in order to discover who was the cause of her downfall (and to get revenge)?